I have wanted to post here for a long time. I have a story. It is a painful story. Maybe it’s painful only to me, I don’t know. I’ve been so humbled by the stories I have read here and felt unworthy, like my own problems can’t possibly be as bad. I have followed these writers – I will not call them bloggers because to me they are writers as impactful and as important as any that were found on my bullshit high school reading lists.
They do not know that they have been lifelines.
They do not know that they have given me validation. They do not know that they have made me feel like part of something bigger. And I have felt unworthy to speak in these forums because I have not suffered the same losses, the same blows, the same sickness…how could I be part of this tribe? But today, in this strange world of Twitter that I am still trying to understand, someone gave me the invitation and therefore the permission to post here.
Ed note: Please, you’re all invited to post here. We want you to share your stories, big and small. Your victories, your celebrations, your dragons, and your sadness too. Don’t be intimidated Pranksters. If I’m Your Aunt Becky, that means we’re family (sorry). You are all welcome to come in and stay.
Today, someone fucked with my kid.
Maybe this is the way, the opening of the floodgates, where I feel important enough. Maybe this is where my story gets validation. And I will tell my story, most of which has nothing to do with this incident.
And I want to tell you all so many of my stories because it has taken so long for me to realize that I HAVE a story, that my shit was fucked up, that I got a raw deal, that some of how I am is because of what happened. But right now none of that matters, my story is not important, my hurts are not important, nothing is important except the fact that someone. fucked. with. my. kid.
My kid is gay. I am gay. What these two things have to do with one another, I could care less about. The Bean (my kid) is a carbon copy of me in so many ways. We love hard, heavy and openly. She has been raised as a political kid in Washington, DC, where there is a rally or march every other week, and if it is something we believe in – from gay rights to women’s rights to immigration rights to arts funding to DC statehood – we march for it and we are loud and do not back down.
I taught her that.
I taught her about gay bashing and Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena and the Trevor Project and all the horrible things that happen to people because of how they love. I taught her to be the head of her Gay-Straight Alliance at school. We matched in our rainbow outfits for the Marriage Equality March. The youth-friendly Gay Pride after-party has always been at our house. She knew she could fight because her mama was always there by her side.
Mama was not with her today on The Metro with her girlfriend.
It was a beautiful day here today. Finally, the humidity had broken and I was down at The H Street Festival, one of the city’s biggest festivals. Bean was supposed to meet me at H street but she is slightly geographically challenged and by the time she figured out where to go, it was time to go home. I told her that I’d meet her at The Metro and ride home with the two of them.
As I got off the train, I noticed that Bean and …we’ll call her Banana…were in the car ahead of me. As I moved to catch up with them, Banana noticed me and said “That man messed with us.”
Oh, hell no.
I bypassed the checkout and went straight through the emergency exit and demanded, “Do you have a problem with my daughter?”
To which he responded, “Children don’t need to see that gay shit on the train.”
I discovered that when he said something to Bean, she said something back to him. So this truly classy gentleman, in his fifties made a fist at my seventeen-year old daughter and told her to “step to him.” This man was also still in his security guard uniform with his name tag. He was a douche-bag security guard at an amusement park.
The details are kinda cliché, but suffice to say I turned into every inch the stereotype of a pissed off black woman.
I grew an extra vertebrae so I could roll my head, my finger grew an inch or two to help me point at his face and I learned all kinds of different ways to conjugate “motherfucker.” Eventually, Bean saw me pulling an Arizona Iced tea bottle out of my bag and pulled me toward the car. That was after he informed me that if I was any kind of mother, I wouldn’t have a gay kid, and what my daughter and I both needed was some of his twelve inches, and I needed to bend over and take some of him because I needed to be put in my place.
I told this story to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and the tears in my eyes right now are not because of the incident, but because of the amazing outpouring of support, piss, and vinegar that I’ve gotten. My friends are contacting Six Flags, where Mr. Antonio Washington works, demanding that Mr. Antonio Washington be removed from working around kids. My friends are re-posting my note so people know this kind of hatred and ignorance is real. They are sending love to a little girl that many of them haven’t ever met.
And what is that little girl doing ? She sat on her mommy’s lap for about 5 minutes. Mommy was busy yelling on the phone, Tweeting and trying to fix all of her favorite foods at once. And she was okay. I overheard her on the phone.
“He didn’t know who he was messing with. My mom is so mad and you don’t mess with my mom.”
I read her Facebook Status, “Some asshole was dumb enough to bash my mom’s kid. He’ll be sorry.”
I listened to Banana “Man, your mom doesn’t play around!” They just made Pizza Rolls and popcorn and are being WAY squeal-y watching horror movies.
Just got off the phone with Six Flags General Counsel. At 9:30 on a Saturday night.
So I guess, to be cliche and because I love NPR , This I Know Is True:
Just because you were an 18-year old teenage mother with a GED and a crack-addicted mother in the murder capitol of the world, you can still be a good mom.
I’m a good mom because I taught my kid to fight for her rights – her rights as a woman, as a black woman, as a black/Latina woman, as a black/Latina gay woman.
I’m a good mom because she knows her momma is never too far away and will KICK THE FUCKING TEETH OUT of anyone who messes with her.
I’m a good mom because, at the end of the day, she still wants to sit on my lap and play with my hair.
As Aunt Becky taught me, we are, none of us, ever alone. The outpouring of rage and support over this has been amazing. I have seen this story, in the matter of about two hours, be posted, tweeted and spread across states and continents. There are warm and fuzzies everywhere and most of you don’t even know the Bean.
I have a story. And there are people out there to listen.
I don’t know where to start this, but I need to put it out there to start healing.
I’m now 42 years old and I’ve always needed mental health care; I hear voices and I see things that aren’t there. I was molested and raped as a child and again as a teenager. I couldn’t cope, so I began self-harming – just to feel something; anything, however this behavior was never allowed in my house.
When I was 16 and tried to kill myself, my parents took me to an ER out of town and then swept it under the rug. Never to be spoken about again.
In 2004, I took a job with my father as my boss.
See, I’ve also always been a high-functioning addict and I wanted so badly to NOT be the black sheep in my family; I wanted my parents to be proud of me. So I took this job. I worked so hard for many years. At work, people thought i was a “princess” because my father was our boss. Little did they know that I got all the shit jobs that could never be done late or missed. Even when my oldest child collapsed with leukemia, I was given a laptop and worked from her hospital room.
My husband and I use pain clinics, but if we run short, I’ll buy some to help get us through the month. Plus, I’ve always had bad panic attacks and I smoked weed to help out with those and help me sleep.
Last year, a woman wanted me fired and gone.
She broke into my Facebook and found a conversation, between my husband and I, that we’d had about a year before. She took pictures of this conversation, then showed them to my father. The conversation included information about me being bisexual and about buying weed and a pill.
I was fired, as was my husband. I was disowned by my entire family.
The same family that KNEW that I had mental illnesses, heard voices, saw things, and that I experienced black-outs during which I did and said things I’ll never remember. They didn’t offer me help – they set me out, cast me aside. After running my life, (they controlled what I wore, what vehicle I drove, what I did with the kids…etc.) they washed their hands of me and walked away.
My brother also works for our father – did I mention we were all cops? I was not a cop but I did time-keeping for the jail and registered sex offenders.
My brother had me pulled over 48 hours after I was fired and disowned, he had his people tear my truck apart searching for drugs and other illegal stuff. All they found was a single pain pill that belonged to my husband. I told them it wasn’t mine, my husband told them that it was his, yet they still wrote me a citation for possession.
So I went to court, for the first time ever – I had never been in trouble before. I’d never even gotten a speeding ticket. The lawyer took me aside and told me the only plea I’d be offered was 11 months 29 days for misdemeanor probation. I took it. Even though I’d brought the pill bottle to show them the pill was legal. I knew if I tried to take it to trial they would give me jail time. I was an example to be made.
It gets worse.
The press got wind that we’d been fired.
My parents had the woman who had hacked my Facebook handle the press.
It went national and none of it was true. They said we were on meth. That I’d been arrested.
It was single worst time in my life.
Our landlord evicted us.
We had another trailer lined up in the county next to ours because we couldn’t go ANYWHERE in our other county without being followed by local police.
At the last minute, our future trailer fell through. We put everything we owned in a storage facility and officially became homeless. We rented a long-term motel in the neighboring county. We were both drawing unemployment so we just hid in the motel, licking our wounds and trying to figure out what our new life was going to look like.
For the first time in my life, I went to the local mental health facility and made an appointment to see someone. The blackouts where getting so bad that I’d broken into my mother-in-law’s apartment and stole money – I have no memory of any of it. They diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder, Type I bipolar disorder, insomnia, and schizophrenia. I was prescribed Vraylar (a new medication to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). It has made such a difference in my life.
Then the next thing that struck us down, the unemployment dried up. No one said that it didn’t last all year. I worked there for 15 years my husband worked there for 21 years and we got a whole 6 months of unemployment.
So we go from living in a long-term motel, to living in our Honda. We had our pug and beagle with us and that was it. My husband’s mother decided to help us get a rent to own trailer, so we went to an estate auction (a little 85 year old lady had had a heart attack in her kitchen and died) looking for furniture and things like a fridge, stove, washer, dryer. We’d lost all of that when we lost our trailer.
When the time came, they started bidding on the actual house and no one made a bid.
Suddenly, my husband’s mom raised her hand and bid $30,000 on a $100,000 house. No one else bid. My husband and I sat rock still, holding hands so tightly that the color was seeping from our fingers. For 10 minutes, the auctioneer continued asking if anyone else had a bid. They didn’t want the house going for that low.
Finally the auctioneer said, “SOLD FOR $30,000!”
My husband and I grabbed each other and his mom and together we sat in our new back yard and cried and thanked God.
I managed to get a job at a gas station that’s within walking distance from our new house. I make just enough to pay our lights and water. I’m trying so so very hard to get us into the green, to get my husband’s guns out of pawn, and to get some money to help my grown kids out if they need it.
Truly, this has been the worst year I’ve ever known. I spend every evening wishing that I could speak to my parents, while knowing that they won’t answer me. I even tried sending an email last month saying that I was sorry for embarrassing them and that I loved them more than life, and got no answer.
But even though it’s been the worst year, it’s also been the best.
I got fired from a job that made me so unhappy, I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. Now, I work at a little gas station with no stress, just fun. I had forgotten that work could be fun.
I got disowned by my parents and completely slandered in the news. But, that meant that I’ve stepped out of my parents control. For the first time IN MY LIFE, I wear what I want to wear, go where I want to go, and say whatever I want to say. I went from homeless for the first time, to sleeping in the Honda, to owning my own home. No mortgage, no nothing!
It’s the light of my life! Now no one can evict us; we have our own home!
I went from never having any sort of mental health care, with blackouts so bad I turned the only mother-figure in my life against me due to something I can’t even recall, to feeling almost normal. I didn’t know that I NEEDED mental health care. It’s amazing that I do NOT hear voices, I don’t see things that aren’t there, and I’m neither severely over-emotional nor completely numb.
I guess the moral to my story is this: I’m learning and I hope that my story helps anyone else going through the worst things they’ve experienced. That if you are going through things that you can’t imagine making it through, if life has you by the balls and you can’t breathe without the weight on your chest, if you want to crawl under the bed until the sun rises. Just hold on. Hold on tight.
Things WILL get better. It may not work out the way you want – heck, just look at my living situation! – but it will work out in a way that you never could have guessed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have problems. I’m still depressed, I miss my family so badly it hurts. I still don’t sleep (and when I do, I wake up screaming from nightmares that the last thing I said to my parents will be the last thing I’ll ever get to say to them.)
But for the most part, life is getting better, I’m enjoying my job and my house. My husband and I are doing well. I can’t wait for the next chapter to come. I know there will be more struggles and hardships but I’ve learned that things will work out, maybe not the way I wanted or thought it would. But, I’m going slow and finally, finally, I have hope.
For those of you out there in the bad place, go slow… hold on… and have hope.
In the United States, every 107 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. Four of every five sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. 68% of all sexual assaults go unreported to the proper authorities.
Why do so many sexual assaults go unreported?
Shame. Self blame. Embarrassment. Fear that no one would believe their story. Fear that they may have caused it. Not wanting to be the victim. Wanting to move past the sexual assault. There are a multitude of reasons why sexual assaults go unreported.
Just as there are a number of types of rape (gang rape, date/acquaintance rape, intimate partner rape, statutory rape, sexual assault), there are a multitude of responses to sexual assault. Each of which is completely normal.
This year, The Band Back Together Project is shining a light into the darkness of sexual assault. Please share your story of sexual assault so that we can Light the Darkness.
A gay male friend of mine has a female friend who has been bothering him, abusing him, stalking him. He has low self-esteem and a difficult time standing up for himself. His father has rejected him because of his sexual orientation, and he has had a difficult time coming to grips with that.
She started showing up where he was when he would travel for work or on personal vacation.
Then she isolated him.
She asked him to have sexual intercourse. He refused.
She offered herself as an experiment to see if maybe he was straight and didn’t realize it. She continued asking despite the fact that he repeatedly said no.
He said he does not remember how he felt during or after, but remembers that he avoided being alone with her many times so that he wasn’t put in the same position. He felt like there was no way to say no that she would listen to as she would do what she wanted to anyway.
She manipulated the situation to the point of saying they can have children together and to continue traveling together as friends. He wanted to do it as a sperm donation with no more physical contact, she refused and threatened with no baby.
He was forced again and now she is pregnant.
Once she got pregnant she threatened him with abortion if he refused to live with her as a couple and have more babies.
He wants the baby and he feels like he is trapped.
There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.
I hope it is not.
I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.
Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.
About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.
Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.
The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.
It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.
Which is why I’d do more.
Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.
Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.
The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.
I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.
The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.
My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.
The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.
I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.
In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.
It was to be short-lived.
Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little: “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”
I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?
The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.
A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.
I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.
This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.
The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:
It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.
But, I had the answer. Finally.
After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”
The only one who hated me more was my father.
While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.
When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.
Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.
I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.
This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.
I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.
It is both me and not me.
High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.
By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.
It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.
My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.
My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.
What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.
They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.
Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.
Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.
Dear Gay/Bi/Curious Teenage Prankster Who Is Being Bullied By Bullshit Bullies,
Chances are, you don’t know me from a hole in the ground. In fact, a hole in the ground may look more familiar than I do, but I am Your Aunt Becky, and while we may not actually be related by blood, I have adopted you along with the rest of the Internet. It’s okay. Don’t worry. When I show up to your house for some family gathering and get rowdy and drunk and sing God Save The Queen, I’ll distract your parents so you can sneak some rum into your eggnog, okay?
Anyway, I hate to bother you with a boring letter since you kids like your text messages but what I have to say is important and I hope that you listen to it. Or parts of it. Tune out what doesn’t matter to you, but please, listen to at least a little bit of it. I may not be particularly smart, but I have lived about twenty different lives, so I’ve picked up some insight along the way.
Your teenage years are not the best years of your life.
What seems like a permanent and dire situation now, the things that make you hurt and ache inside, those things will stay with you, but the hurts and the aches, those subside over time. These are the things that will fortify you. They will strengthen you and they will make you a better person. Eventually.
I know that it seems like there is no other way out, believe me, I’ve felt that way before too. I’m willing to bet that most of the people who are reading this column right now have felt this way at some point as well. Maybe it’s not the same. Maybe we cannot understand precisely how you feel because we are not you. But even when things seem so bleak and so empty, even when all that you feel is a deep chasm of pain, it will pass. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but it will pass.
Things will get better.
Physically, my heart hurts when I see statistics like sexual minority youth are bullied two to three times more than heterosexual youths. In our lifetime, (yes, I am using the royal “our” because I am rightly assuming that you will be around to make fun of my obsession with bacon for a good long while) I would be willing to bet that this number will drop as bullying is taken more seriously by schools and parents alike. Certainly, that does not help you right at this very moment, as you are hurting from the devastating effects of verbal, emotional and even perhaps physical abuse, I know that. Let every unkind word, every insult, every horrible slur thrown at you strengthen your resolve to help the next generation.
You know that you must be part of the change the next generation of children who will grow up to be in your shoes some day. You can and you will.
These are not the best years of your life.
The best years of your life are yet to come. The years ahead of you will be long and they will be beautiful and they will be brimming with love. The suffering that you have withstood at the hands of cruel bullies and those who do not understand you will leave the sorts of scars that may never be visible to anyone but those who know you best. Those silent scars will only serve to help you as you can turn all of your pain and channel it into something greater, something positive. There is a whole world out there beyond your high school, beyond your small-minded town who will welcome you with wide arms, who will love you as you are, and who will accept you simply for being you.
It’s hard to remember all of this, I know, because even now, at age thirty, my high school years winking merrily in my rear view mirror, I struggle to remind myself that it’s not the end of things when I have a bad day. I have to take a breath and remind myself that it’s not going to break me when I’m bullied by someone. The days when I get harassed simply for being me aren’t bad days at all; because they make me stronger. Sometimes, I have to take a step back from the situation, let all of that hatred flung in my face wash over me and and allow it to strengthen my resolve to do more good.
These horrible bleak days are going to make the rest of your life that much better.
I want you to know that somewhere, Your anonymous Aunt Becky is rooting for you, kid, and she loves you dearly. You’ll learn that the world is a good place. High school may not always be, but the world is. I’m sorry that things have to be so hard for you and trust me, if I could take on those bullies, I would do it in a second (don’t doubt me on this). I have a loyal Prankster Army who’d back me up. Bullies are bullshit. No, let me rephrase that: bullies are FUCKING bullshit, and you don’t deserve the suffering they’re causing you.
There’s a big world out here, kid, and we can’t wait to meet you. Please remember that high school is temporary and the rest of your life, well, it’s wide open. We can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with it.
Please, do not give up hope. There is always hope.
If you’d like to talk to someone from the Trevor Project, here is the Phone Number: 866-4-U-TREVOR
You know how when you are on a road trip you pass signs saying what city is ahead? And in your mind you go, “Oh, I’m nearing Detroit or I’m in the Dallas area.” So somehow at some level you *know* where you are, but let’s face it, all freeways look pretty much the same. So you don’t really know what being in Detroit or Dallas or where ever means.
But if you need to stop – take a break from driving, fill up your tank – or the car’s – you pull off on an exit and you start to get a feel for where you really are. Maybe it’s the sports teams logos, or the architecture, or the people. But there’s something, and you suddenly get a flash of what it means to be in that city. Maybe you don’t fully internalize it, but there is a moment of insight, an “aha” of … “I’m really here now.”
So what does any of this have to do with abuse? Let me set some context.
I am white, male, well-educated, good job. Reasonable health, tall and relatively strong. People who know me might find me serious, but generally positive and up-beat. I have good friends and wonderful kids. From the outside, everything looks pretty good. But it’s what’s inside that matters.
I realized in the last year or so that I was being abused. Not physically, but emotionally. I knew it logically. I could finally see the road signs. And I acted. Maybe not fast enough, but I finally separated from my abuser about six months ago.
Since then, I’ve been adapting to a new life style. I’ve being taking control of my life and even gotten a promotion (of sorts) at work. Really thrown myself into the journey. The knowledge of what I had been through was still there, but it was just a fact.
Lately, however, my gas tank has been getting low. So I pulled off the road. I took Friday off work and ended up sleeping much of the day. Then I heard from my abuser again. And the pain came flooding back.
I was embarrassed. I should be stronger than that. Why was I letting her continue to hurt me? I vented to a trusted friend.
They made a very simple statement that shook me to my core: “You are an abuse victim.”
There it was. I am a victim of abuse. It’s going to take a long time to “get better”. And even when I’m passed the worst of it, I’m not going to be the same person I was before.
Those simple words brought me to tears. Tears of relief. It was okay that it still hurt. It was okay that I needed a break. I need to heal and maybe, just a little, in that moment, I was able to heal some more.